Electrical Conductivity of Open-cell Metal Foams

Abstract

Cellular metal foams are of interest because of the ability to tailor their mechanical, thermal, acoustic, and electrical properties by varying the relative density and cell morphology. Here, a tetrakaidecahedral unit-cell approach is used to represent an open-cell aluminum foam and a simplified electrical resistor network derived to model low frequency current flow through the foam. The analysis indicates that for the range of relative densities studied (4–12%), the conductivity of tetrakaidecahedral foams has a linear dependence upon relative density. The distribution of metal in the cell ligaments was found to significantly affect the conductivity. Increasing the fraction of metal at the ends of the ligaments resulted in a decrease in electrical conductivity at a fixed relative density. Low frequency electrical conductivity measurements of an open-cell aluminum foam (ERG Duocel) confirmed the linear dependence upon density, but the slope was smaller than that predicted by the unit-cell model. The difference between the model and experiment was found to be the result of the presence of a distribution of cell sizes and types in real samples. This effect is due to the varying number of ligaments, ligament lengths, and the cross-sectional areas available for current conduction across the cellular structure.

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Correspondence to K. P. Dharmasena.

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Dharmasena, K.P., Wadley, H.N.G. Electrical Conductivity of Open-cell Metal Foams. Journal of Materials Research 17, 625–631 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1557/JMR.2002.0089

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